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The lawmaker behind some of Russia's latest draconian legislation offers his own questionable ideas about defamation and corruption

Meduza
Senator Andrey Klishas
Senator Andrey Klishas
Mikhail Klimentiev / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

Andrey Klishas, the chairman of the Federation Council's Legislation Committee and the author of multiple controversial draft laws, has granted an interview to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. What follows is a paraphrased summary of his comments, with fact-checked corrections highlighted and in parentheses.

The legislation banning online content that disrespects the authorities is my initiative, but it so happens that the Kremlin also supports it. It’s illegal to insult state officials in the street, so why should it be allowed on the Internet? The same restrictions exist in Germany and Belgium. (Germany does indeed ban “criminal defamation” of public officials, the head of state, and the state itself, including symbols of the state, imposing penalties as high as five years in prison. There is no special punishment for this activity when it’s online, however. Belgian law only imposes penalties on defamation of state officials when the offense is carried out in the victim’s presence — including over the telephone. Russia, moreover, already criminalizes insulting state officials in public, with a maximum punishment of one year of community service.)

The word “gosdura” (state-idiot) can only be used in a joke. Where there is humor, far more is permissible. “Reporting corruption does not qualify as disrespecting the authorities — that’s 100 percent the case.” Navalny is wrong: I’m not corrupt, and I’ve declared all my assets. And even if I left something out, “that isn’t corruption.” (Senator Klishas argues that state officials who fail to declare all their property aren’t guilty of corruption. “Corruption means breaking the law. It means receiving certain material benefits in exchange for actions that serve others’ interests,” he explained. Admittedly, this is exactly how anti-corruption legislation in Russia defines the concept. The same law, however, says that auditing income declarations and penalizing officials for inaccuracies is one of the government’s main measures to prevent corruption.) Navalny simply miscalculated the size of my estate in Switzerland.

Russia’s law on “foreign agents” doesn’t always work the right way, but abolishing it is unthinkable. We will not allow foreign organizations to replace our civil society.

Legislation on the isolation of the Russian Internet is needed in case the United States launches a cyberattack (though this attack hasn’t started yet). Don’t think there aren’t many countries around the world that wouldn’t cut off Russia’s Internet access on orders from the Americans. “And I’ve been told such capabilities do technically exist.”

Summary by Mikhail Zelensky

Translation by Kevin Rothrock